A few weeks ago, I posted a somewhat negative article about Sam Vaknin that pretty much blamed him for turning NPD into something resembling demonic possession because of his own self-hatred and hatred of his own narcissism. I also complained about the way he appears to have combined a number of other personality disorders–BPD, ASPD (sociopathy/psychopathy), SPD, and other disorders–into a new, much more malignant, definition of “narcissism.” (Actually, this last part does have some validity and I’m not the first person to write about it).
In retrospect, I think my Vaknin article may not have been completely fair to him; after all, he was the first person (that I know of) who brought the problem of narcissistic abuse out into the open and got victims talking about their experiences among themselves. He also appeared to backpedal in a video he did with Richard Grannon (SpartanLifeCoach) about a year ago, in which they talked about how many people in the narcissistic abuse community, particularly in America, have transformed the psychiatric diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder into a good- versus-evil, us-versus-them, morality play. So to say Vaknin was single-handedly responsible for the demonization of NPD is probably unfair and inaccurate.
That article didn’t generate a lot of interest or get many comments, and it quickly got buried under other posts, which I was secretly grateful for, since I had some grave doubts about what I’d written about him after the fact.
A narc-abuse blogger friend who has recently adopted an attitude similar to mine about narcissism and NPD, found that post today and referenced it along with another post of mine in this article:
I used to be a narc-hater. I bashed them with the best of them and agreed they were inhuman demons straight from the bowels of hell. And like me, in the beginning, (and like many victims of narcissistic abuse), this blogger I refer to also hated all narcs. We both believed there were NO exceptions, and any narcs who showed any remorse, guilt, or shame were probably just lying through their teeth to get more supply.
To some extent, this attitude is perfectly understandable. After all, the things our abusers did to us were real and damaged us severely. What they did was soul-crushing. There are some malignant narcissists and sociopaths who have truly become evil, and who show no remorse or seem to have a conscience or even a soul anymore. Some of us grew up becoming the scapegoats and punching bags of families composed of such high spectrum narcissists and sociopaths. So I think when we’re trying to get out of an abusive relationship or cut ties with a narcissistic family, anger, even rage, is healthy and necessary. Without it, you would stay stuck in fear and codependency.
Unrelenting hatred is soul-poison.
This blogger and I both agree though, that once you have separated yourself from the narcissists in your life, that holding onto that rage and hatred (which now has nowhere to go) begins to turn a person bitter and hinders them from being able to move on from the abuse and begin to heal. It turns them paranoid and they begin to see narcissism hiding behind every streetlamp and under every bed. They begin to see narcissism in everyday human behavior. It wasn’t until I began to try to understand this disorder and look at all its different facets and let go of my hate (which was healthy at first), that I began to take any real steps toward healing, and my life began to change for the better.
It’s a fact that narcissists have the potential to be incredibly dangerous. I suffered terribly at the hands of a highly malignant N mother and a thoroughly evil N ex. Some high on the spectrum are definitely evil, and appear to have lost their souls. And as a narc abuse victim, I empathize with most narc abuse bloggers (except the ones who have turned bitter and self pitying and narcissistic themselves due to their inability to let go of their hatred) and am friends with a number of them, especially here on WordPress.
The mob mentality.
I admit I probably drive the “no hate” point home a bit too much sometimes, but I think that’s probably partly a reaction against the way I got mobbed by a very toxic and abusive group of narc-abuse bloggers (not on WordPress) because I dared to suggest that some narcissists may be redeemable, as well as my admission that I had a BPD diagnosis (to the haters, all BPDs are devils too). Their attack on me was so over the top and cruel that I was re-traumatized and considered taking my blog down. I became depressed and anxious and for awhile, my PTSD and BPD symptoms returned. Another blogger friend of mine, who had been viciously bullied several years earlier by a member of this same group, got mobbed again by proxy just because she was a friend of mine. Several vicious new posts were written about her, using her own vulnerabilities against her–which is something malignant narcissists and sociopaths do. I felt terrible for her having been re-traumatized due to her proximity to me. I felt somehow responsible.
These people have adopted a mob (or herd) mentality and have not been able to move on from their victimization, so they remain stuck in self pity and hatred. They claim to “hate all narcs” but use every trick in the malignant narcissist’s playbook should you disagree with them in any way–and then some. They are utterly incapable of seeing they have become exactly what they despise. One of these bloggers, who happens to have an extremely popular blog, has recently written a book. I read the intro to the book and could not believe what I was reading. In it, this person said that people who were abused later or married a narcissist, do not count as real victims because they brought it on themselves by knowingly making the choice to be with a narcissist. This blogger thinks you’re only a valid victim if you had N parents. I could not believe the complete lack of empathy toward abuse victims from N marriages and relationships, etc. They brought it on themselves! There are quite a few other red flags on this blog too. This blogger is an extremist–and clearly a narcissist–who preaches only hatred and revenge. Someone like this, while probably of some help to people considering going No Contact, is a dangerous person who encourages other victims to become narcissists themselves. And sadly, because this blogger is extremely charismatic and is an entertaining writer, they sometimes have.
In summary, the herd mentality is a pervasive social disease that’s distressingly common in politics, in religion, and wherever there is a lot of emotion and controversy. It’s a form of splitting, or black and white thinking that does nothing except cause even more problems and solves absolutely nothing.
Education and understanding.
Moving on from that, the reason I adopted a more (some would say) tolerant attitude toward narcissists is mostly because of some time I spent for awhile posting on an NPD forum where both narcissists (both diagnosed and self diagnosed) and “nons” (as they are called there) posted. Both were learning from each other–and both were listening. While a few of the more sociopathic NPDs with antisocial traits (malignant narcissists) seemed to like their disorder and think it improved their lives, most of the NPDs on that forum were not that high on the spectrum. They were ego-dystonic and definitely did not like their disorder. They wanted to change. Their attitude was more like some of the BPDs I know of, who are damaged people and can unwittingly hurt others because of their acting out, but are in no way evil or want to do harm. To my surprise, at no point was I bullied or attacked on these forums. There was a lot of mutual respect among the Ns and the “nons,” even though sometimes there’d be disagreements. It was an educational and positive experience for me, and it taught me not only more about narcissism, but a lot more about myself. I began to see my own narcissism, and decided I wanted to change those traits because they were holding me back from being able to connect or have meaningful relationships. I entered therapy and began to let go of my rage and finally move forward into something resembling life instead of mere survival.
I also grew closer to God and have become a Christian. I feel like God is leading me in a new direction — one of understanding and compassion and recognizing that no one is beyond God’s grace and love. Even malignant narcissists who seem too far gone to ever change can still be helped through prayer if that’s in God’s will. And sometimes it is–I always think of the conversion of the Apostle Paul as a biblical example of this.
Narcissists who suffer.
Some really do. I’ve had a few NPDs email me privately asking for help. I can’t do much for them other than direct them to other resources. I regard these suffering NPDs as victims themselves (which they are, and most had horrific childhoods and narcissism was not a choice), rather than perpetrators (even though they most likely have hurt others in the past). So I do have empathy for them, as I do for any abuse victim.
There is one low level narcissist I know of who is in therapy and emails me about her progress. At the moment she’s in an extremely fragile state, experiencing lots of guilt and shame. She cries after her therapy sessions. She has also written to me about the stigma and wishes there were a more nuanced view of this disorder than currently exists. She’s definitely not malignant and her motivation to change gives me hope that at least some can get better. It’s not lost on me that this diagnosed NPD is a much nicer person than a few of the hate-mongering, judgmental victims I’ve come across.
I know another low level narcissist from the NPD forums who reminded me of a flagellant from the time of the crusades. Almost every post of his was basically him beating himself up over things he had done in the past, but he was also intelligent and extremely insightful into his disorder. he sympathized with the “nons” there. He explained that he removed himself from society and became a recluse and hermit, so he could never hurt anyone again. He didn’t think he could change so sending himself into a kind of exile was all he thought he could do. At some point, he disappeared from the forums without warning. No one was able to contact him. Everyone on the forums worried that he might have committed suicide.
Obviously, neither of these people are evil in spite of having NPD–the idea of it is ludicrous to me. We are all complicated people with many combinations of traits and most of us probably fall somewhere on the N spectrum anyway–especially those of us who blog! 😉
It’s definitely not lost on me how toxic NPDs can be, especially if they’re malignant. They make absolutely horrible parents and do a lot of damage to their children. I just wish the general attitude on the web was a more nuanced, reasonable one. I wish there was some acknowledgment out there that some lower level NPDs can and do change, if they want to and if they retain a positive attitude and remain motivated to change. I do not think, except in very rare circumstances, that malignant narcs can change. Only an act of God could do that. I do pray for my mother, because when all is said and done, I do have love for her and it breaks my heart that she will probably die never being free of her disorder. I don’t hold a lot of hope for her. I was told once that it’s wrong to pray for “the narcs” but I don’t agree with that at all. I don’t think anyone is beyond God’s grace. And of course, I also pray for their victims.
Black and white thinking.
The boundary between narcissism and other disorders caused by narcissistic abuse is a fuzzy one. There’s no “us versus them,” not really. C-PTSD and BPD can both shade into narcissism, and I also think NPD itself is a complication of C-PTSD or PTSD in which aggressive defenses were adopted to cope and have become ingrained in the personality. This is something else I’ve learned, and that’s why it’s so hard to go back to that holier than thou, sanctimonious, “all narcs are evil and destined for hell and I’m just a poor victim who never did anything wrong in my life” mentality. That being said, I have no empathy at all for malignant, high spectrum narcissists and sociopaths who have no desire to change or have zero self awareness. I still pray for them, though.
I really can’t stand judgmental, black and white thinking (also known as “splitting”). A someone with BPD, I engaged it in myself for way too long, and it just made me miserable and crazy and bitter and stuck in self pity. That’s no way for anyone to live. You can’t heal with a mentality like that. I wasn’t able to start moving away from that mentality until I realized that my parents didn’t do what they did to me because they were demons; they did what they did because they were victims themselves at one point and were programmed to act that way. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t terrible and it doesn’t mean I have to maintain contact with my mother, but she could not help herself. As for my father (who died on June 6th of this year), I know he did love me, in spite of his awfulness as a parent. My dad was either a Borderline or a covert narcissist who was not malignant but would get drunk and then rage, and was always very codependent to my mother.